Having grown up in Plattsburgh, NY, Vassar's city campus was quite a change for a young Alan Tousignant, who headed to college in the fall of 1980 with intentions of studying biology before applying to a veterinary program. “I grew up milking cows on a dairy farm, and I got to know a lot about animals and agriculture,” he says in Vassar's article on their Stories website.
While he never ended up pursuing a veterinary degree, he did explore the sciences. During related fieldwork in 1984, he learned about an opening for an internship at our Trevor Zoo and came to interview with longtime Zoo Director Jono Meigs '65. He was offered the job and accepted, and after only a year, he was brought into a permanent position and promoted to assistant director. Back in those days, zoo staff was pretty much limited to the director and assistant director, and Alan quickly learned how to wear many different hats including animal care coordinator, exhibit designer, animal enrichment specialist, and animal diet supervisor.
After taking time away from Millbrook and the zoo to pursue a doctorate in zoology and animal biology at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. T returned to Millbrook as associate zoo director in 1994 and worked with Jono Meigs to grow the zoo into the AZA-accredited institution it is today. His career since has been focused on animals and their care and working in the field of conservation. Conservation education is a part of his daily work with Millbrook students, and he continually pursues professional development opportunities through outside organizations, research, and interactions with local and national conservation groups.
In 2013 Dr. T. stepped easily into the role of zoo director, and, as such, his primary role is as an educator, whether teaching topics in Animal Behavior class, demonstrating how to feed a particular animal to new zooies, or helping members of zoo squad design a new exhibit.
Vassar reports on his tremendous work outside of Millbrook: "He has presented and published scientific research academic journals, much of it focused on reptile behavior and reproduction, and he is currently conducting research on two species of turtles and the influence humanity has on skewing genders among their populations.
This year, the New York Chapter of the Wildlife Society named him Outstanding Conservationist of the Year."Click here to read the complete story on Vassar's website